Lorain and her husband Gery Amundson were both dedicated Lutherans, beloved allies, and activists of the LGBTQ+ community and movement here in El Paso. Lorain and Gery dedicated a great portion of their lives advocating for gay rights and contributing to the overall creation and development of El Paso’s Chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (or PFLAG). Their dedication to the LGBTQ+ community has left a lasting impression on our region, strengthening the fight for equality.
Lorain Amundson (March 31, 1936 – October 11, 2016) and Karl Gerhart “Gery” Amundson (September 30, 1931 – June 3, 2015) were contributors and pioneers for the LGBTQ+ rights movement within the El Paso community. The beginning of Lorain and Gery’s involvement began after their son come out as gay in 1993. In efforts to be as supportive and resourceful as possible, the couple took steps to educate themselves on what it means to be gay and what their son may be going through. Lorain and Gery got involved with El Paso’s Chapter of PFLAG when it was established in 1995 by Mary Lou and Art Moreno, becoming part of the organization’s first board of directors. PFLAG is a non-profit organization that seeks to offer education, advocacy, and support for families, allies, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. PFLAG is known for its commitment to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ+ people through its resources and community outreach.
Lorain and Gery’s public involvements with the LGBTQ community grew deeper in the early 2000s, with periodic appearances in the El Paso Times newspaper. In 2003, Lorain made her first appearance in El Paso Times in the form of an entry for the column “Your Views,” a section dedicated to allowing El Pasoans write letters for the purpose of public viewing. Lorain’s message was titled “Marriage’s Meaning”, and within her letter, she went onto describe her views on marriage, gay rights, and equality: “I claim the same rights without exception for my children, straight or gay: the right to choose a life partner; the right and the obligation to undertake the responsibilities attendant to that choice; and the right to enjoy any and all of the benefits available in the society their efforts help to build” (El Paso Times, 2003). This letter was the first of many forms of activism which helped push the local LGBTQ movement into action.
Within the following year, the Federal Marriage Amendment was introduced, which would prevent Texas from creating or recognizing same-sex couples as married. As parents of a gay son, Lorain and Gery felt the need to respond to this news by sending their first conjoined letter to the El Paso Times encouraging the community to oppose the bigoted amendment: “Why should a group of persons be denied the many rights that come with marriage, rights such as medical benefits and the right to be with a partner in the hospital, as well as inheritance rights and the right to be a full family with privileges of adoption? We all need to raise our voices now in opposition” (El Paso Times, 2004). Lorain and Gery also participated in the No-Nonsense campaign that November, which was created in opposition to the amendment. They worked diligently to raise community awareness to stop this amendment. Though the amendment was unfortunately approved, Lorain and Gery continued their dedication to fight for gay rights.
Lorain and Gery were active within the LGBTQ+ movement for over a decade, continuously speaking out against injustices and advocating for equal rights. Between 1995 and 2014 they were the anchoring leaders of PFLAG-El Paso, organizing monthly meetings, providing educational workshops for the community, supporting families and parents struggling with the identities of their LGBTQ family members, and representing PFLAG at countless public events. During these many years of service Lorain and Gery became de-facto grandparents and role models for many young LGBTQ+ people in the area, especially for those whose families had rejected them due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It was only in 2011 that Lorain stepped down from her position due to health concerns; Gery served his final term as part of the Board of Directors from 2012-2014, serving the community up to his 83rd birthday. In response to the outstanding work Lorain and Gery did over the years, PFLAG dedicated a scholarship award in their name which offered $2,000 and a summer internship for an LGBTQ+ or ally student.
Through devoting their lives to the service, Lorain and Gery played a significant role in the advancement of LGBTQ+ people and their rights. Both Lorain and Gery campaigned tirelessly for the legalization of same-sex marriage to fulfill their vision of societal respect and equality and provided compassion, connection, and knowledge to countless families and LGBTQ+ people. The couple stated that their son coming out was a blessing due to its impact on their involvement and role in the LGBTQ+ community. The legacy of Lorain and Gery continues to live on through the lasting impact they’ve left on the LGBTQ+ movement and the community here in El Paso.